Unified Service Desk, When To Use It?

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I have previously blogged on what Unified Service Desk (USD) is, but I didn’t dig much into the “why” and the “when” questions.  So this post will focus on those questions.

“When should I use it?”

We’ll start with the money question, and the answer applies to most orchestration software.  USD is best used when you have a call center (or more than one) that must open multiple applications to handle incoming calls effectively.  That’s really the shortest route to our ultimate answer.

To illustrate the point,  imagine you run a call center for a mobile phone operator.  During the course of the day, your center handles calls from people wanting tech support, people wanting to change their service, people with billing questions (to put it politely), and more.  Those three questions are all to the same company as far as an external customer is concerned, but very likely you’re managing different groups of people and shunting callers back and forth to deal with those calls.  IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems have helped mitigate that over the years, but that still doesn’t really help incoming callers with multiple different questions, nor is it really fun for the caller.  Now with USD, you can do multiple things:  1. You could have one CSR (Customer Service Representative) handle multiple call types by having USD guide them through the process for each 2. You could route to other CSRs as needed without losing the context of what was being called about.  There are few things more annoying when calling into a call center than being shunted everywhere, followed by being re-asked the same security questions the IVR and the previous CSR both already asked you.  USD can help with both.

But beyond just handling the process, USD also handles the programs being used.  In our example above, there’s a good chance that your knowledge base is unrelated to your billing software which is unrelated to your call scripting engine.  One of the major points of orchestration software is to orchestrate other software.  So when you have a call come in, and your IVR says it’s billing, instead of having to pull customer call history from one app, and billing history from another app, USD can pop both open beside each other, with the customer data already showing. Now your CSR doesn’t have to hunt for that information itself.  If you’re interested in technical details on how that is possible, look for future posts on the Hosted Application Toolkit (HAT) for Unified Service Desk.

“Ok, but why would I use USD?”

Now we start digging a little deeper.  Do you have call time metrics?  Customer Satisfaction requirements?  Support SLAs (Service Level Agreements)?  In essence, do you care about your quality of customer service?  I’m going to assume that if you’re still reading, the answer to one or all of those is a resounding “Yes!” Well, there’s your answer, sitting there.

USD helps streamline a lot of a call’s interaction to only what is needed to handle that issue.  When a customer calls in and has informed the IVR that they need to change their service plan, USD can have their plan details set up and ready for review and update.  If they’re calling for tech support, USD can open the troubleshooting scripts proactively (and if you’re getting fancy, could even tell you which web-based troubleshooting they’ve already done!).  If they’re disgruntled, USD could even support routing immediately to customer retention and customer care groups to make sure they’re speaking to just the right person to resolve their issue amicably.  Best of all, while this is getting set up in USD, it’s also traceable and reportable.  And there is your win, proving that you’re taking calls faster, customers are happier with the response, and you’re meeting SLAs more reliably.

There’s another important reason as well.  Call centers, by the nature of what they do and the kinds of calls they take, are often high turnover places.  Getting a new representative up and running as soon as possible is key to keeping performance up for the whole call center.  USD’s ability to pipeline your CSRs exactly where they need to go and give them the scripts they need mean that training time can be dramatically reduced.  We may never quite get to “sit in front of the computer and do what it tells you to do” outright, but we can get a far sight closer there.  This is good for you and the CSR, as there is always constant support, right there on the screen, no matter where they are.

“Why use this orchestration tool?”

So far, a lot of what I’ve said is true about any orchestration tool.  Given enough effort, the good ones will all get to that level of functionality.  So why the Unified Service Desk?  For me, it’s because it lives on the core of Dynamics CRM.  CRM is already an excellent customer management tool, with lots of customer support tools out of the box.  It also has a robust security model and strong workflow automation tools.  By starting with what Dynamics CRM offers, USD is ahead of the game on implementation, meaning faster deployment times and lower costs.  Plus, since USD is included with the full Dynamics CRM license, you don’t have an extra fee like you do with other tools.  I think the combination of Dynamics CRM and USD are so good together that I would recommend a serious look at them even if CRM isn’t your current customer management platform.  Sometimes the migration is just worth it.  In short: cheaper, faster, and easier than other orchestration tools.

“Am I ready for Unified Service Desk?”

While we’ve been challenging USD and what value it brings, there are two sides to this coin.  Even though I mentioned USD can be cheaper and easier than other tools, that does not mean it’s cheap or easy.  Orchestration requires a large amount of business process maturity.  If you can’t rattle off exactly which groups have to touch certain types of issues to solve them, you’re not ready for USD.  If your conversations center around individuals instead of groups with roles, you might not be ready for USD.  If you can’t clearly articulate what an ideal call looks like and how long it should take, USD won’t be able to shine.

Simply put, if you aren’t ready to implement well-defined business processes and measure them, you’re not going to get a lot of value out of USD. Also, USD is not a turnkey system.  You’re not just going to turn it on and go.  It requires development.  Sometimes extensive development and configuration, to support your business needs.  This almost always requires both having the right outside partners assist in initial implementation, and internal development resources that can continue to support the application when business needs change after deployment.

“When Shouldn’t I use USD?”

Implied in this post is the common thought that Unified Service Desk isn’t going to be the right tool for every job.  Assembled below are statements that should give you pause about USD if you can hear yourself saying them.

  • “I’m only going to be using Dynamics CRM, and no other applications.” USD’s strength lies in its ability to bring systems together.  If you’re only using Dynamics CRM, the overhead of USD makes the value of it questionable.
  • “I’m not using Dynamics CRM.” Since the Unified Service Desk lives as a part of CRM, using one means using the other.  Trying to set up CRM just to support a USD deployment of other applications would not be a good use of anyone’s resources.
  • “I don’t have many formal business processes.” USD’s ability to streamline and support your business relies on there being a well-defined process to support.  Now, this isn’t an absolute deal-breaker.  If your organization simply needs to interact with a lot of different applications at once, USD might still make sense, but lack of formal process to USD to support should weigh heavily in that decision.
  • “I don’t track call center performance.” If you’re not tracking your performance (or at least trying to), then you’re never going to know if USD helped you.  It also means you’re not going to figure out where the bottlenecks are on an ongoing basis.  Users in USD rely on managers that can improve their systems, but that can’t happen if you’re not tracking performance.
  • “I only have a few people.” This generally goes hand-in-hand with the previous two.  Only having a few people working a smaller call center is not a place that is ideal for the Unified Service Desk.  The up-front configuration required to make it work is not much smaller just because you have fewer people.  When you start looking at the dozens-to-hundreds of people, that’s when USD makes sense.
  • “I don’t have a technical staff to support USD after it’s deployed.” USD, much like your business, is a living, breathing thing.  As much as I strongly recommend hiring a good consulting team to help implement USD, the ongoing support really needs to live in your organization.  Changes to business process mean changes to USD, and having technical staff that can be nimble and supportive of those needs is key.

Ultimately, the Unified Service Desk is a platform to build on, not just a tool.  It’s designed for interpreting your call center’s process flow, and ideally, streamlining it. Without a clear vision for what you want out of your business’s call center, the Unified Service Desk simply becomes another piece of technology shelfware.  But with that vision, USD can solve a great many problems call centers constantly face.

Further reading: Call center challenges and how Unified Service Desk can help.

by Hitachi Solutions America

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